Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Objective Viewing

I was hoping my post would get a little discussion going, Brandon; thanks for the response.

I'll start with Tim Burton. I love the guy - Edward Scissorhands, the two Batman movies, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Ed Wood, Mars Attacks, Big Fish, Sleepy Hollow. That's quite an impressive/established resume, and one would have to be a fool to deny him auteur status; we all know a Burton film when we see one.

My problem with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice In Wonderland is that they look and felt more like studio duds than something that had the Tim Burton stamp on them. I remember feeling really excited at the respective announcements of both projects.

* Finally, we were going to get a dark version of Alice in Wonderland. I couldn't have been more wrong.

* Tim Burton making a dark, slightly-demented version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? That sounded like a cool idea to me, but when I watched it the movie felt dull and unnecessary.

So admittedly, I did go into both movies with that bit of subjectivity. I had higher expectations for both and envisioned them to look and feel a certain way. So I do put that on myself as well as Burton; I'm still a fan and won't give up on him. But at the same time, I think it's okay to single out a few of his films as being crap, without resorting to hyperbole. It feels wrong to turn on the man and suddenly label him a bad director or someone who's "lost it." Although I think Tarsem might be a different case altogether.

I will grant Charlie and the Chocolate Factory some aesthetical points, but nothing more. You do get a sense of Burton's style, but it isn't enough, in my opinion. And it's interesting to me that post-Pirates Johnny Depp is in both movies (CatCF and AiW). Maybe style and substance were sacrificed slightly so that the studio could potentially do better at the box office?

And you're right, it was silly for me to say that I won't give Corpse Bride and Sweeney Todd another chance; I'm sure I will. They were both really well done, even if they aren't favorites of mine.

Moving on to objective viewing, bad buzz can sometimes curb my enthusiasm for a film...but if I'm interested/invested in a project from the start, I usually see it no matter what the critics and fanboys say. I wasn't at all aware of the Dark Shadows TV show, so the movie wasn't really on my list of things to see anyway. But sure, after all of those critics tore it apart, I started to reconsider giving it a shot - a feeling that only lasted a month or two. It's the old 'see it in the theater vs. rent it' argument.

So largely it has to do with my own interests; if everyone had trashed The Master, I still would've been there that night at Cinemapolis. And because The Master was a strong contender for "best film of 2012," I did measure it while watching it, as you did with Anatolia. To me it makes sense to do that for the biggest films of the year. Every scene and line of dialogue needs to be put under the microscope, it would seem. And I think we try do that with quite a bit of objectivity. But depending on who and what we've read about a film, outside thoughts/words can sometimes creep in and alter our viewing moods.

I almost prefer to see a "big" film twice - the second viewing occurring a week or so after the first. For that first viewing, I want to break down and measure every scene and line. With the second viewing, I want to relax and focus on letting the film entertain me or having whatever affect it's trying to achieve on me.

I wouldn't say that Jason, Adrienne, and I are more honest than you, John, and Jeff but if there is a difference between those two groups, I think it might have something to do with the fact that you guys spend more time reading reviews than we do (here's me putting words in Jason and Adrienne's respective mouths). I hear and read little snippets, but I often avoid full reviews...except for the CR5FC ones ;)

Obviously reading the reviews isn't a bad thing. I respect the hell out of the work you, John, and Jeff and do. Your posts are smart (contrary to your own beliefs) and I always enjoy reading them. And I'm sure that from reading other critics, it helps to get the ball rolling.

And really, I'm pretty lame because I almost always avoid the movies that I root against. Mostly I play it safe and watch what I know I'll feel, at the very least, lukewarm about. I'll probably never watch Ted, but I'll continue to rip on it. But I would definitely root against that movie if I were to watch it - same with Project X and this Red Dawn re-make. Political reasons do play a role. And right, there was the Mel Gibson discussion we had. It's easy to root against someone if he or she is an awful human being. Gibson is an awful person, in my mind. Woody Allen is an awful person in the minds of many, but not mine...even though I don't necessarily support what he did. So there's that.

Lastly, I just want to say that we should never condemn anyone for wanting to go against the grain. In some cases I admire it. But just being a contrarian is lame. Consistency in one's convictions is a hell of a lot more admirable, especially given how hard it is to work at and achieve.

Top Ten Tree House of Horror Segments

10. Time and Punishment (Tree House of Horror V, season 6)

Using a toaster with a flux capacitor, Homer accidentally travels back in time to when "dinosaurs weren't just confined to zoos." Once there, he remembers the advice Grampa gave him on his wedding day, - "If you ever travel back in time, don't step on anything because even the tiniest change can alter the future in ways you can't imagine." Obviously Homer fails at this and it's met with hilarious results.

Favorite quote/moment:

Homer: (fed up of the consequences of time travel) Don't touch anything? I'll touch whatever I feel like! (He then begins to stomp and club everything in his path.)

9. The Thing and I (Tree House of Horror VII, season 8)

Lisa and Bart hear strange noises coming from the attic; when they ask Homer and Marge about it, they're told to never go up there. Marge then reminds Homer to take a bucket of fish heads up to the attic.

Favorite quote/moment:

Obviously the moment when Bart and Lisa find the unsold copies of Homer's autobiography, Homer I Hardly Knew Me. But I'll  also go with the moment when Dr. Hibbert shows Hugo his reflection in a mirror for the first time.

8. Terror at 51/2 Feet (Tree House of Horror IV, season 5)

While riding to school, Bart is only person on the bus to see a gremlin trying to kill everyone on board. 

Favorite quote/moment:

Lisa: Excuse me, Bart's a little upset this morning, so could everyone please be extra-nice to him?
(Everyone laughs)
Jimbo: Hey, where's your diaper, baby? (pulls down Bart's pants)
Martin: Thank goodness he's drawn attention away from my shirt. (Martin wearing a Wang Computers t-shirt.)

7. Fly vs. Fly (Tree House of Horror VIII, season 9)

Homer buys a matter transporter at Professor Frink's yard sale for thirty-five cents. After accidentally splicing the DNA of Snowball II and Santa's Little Helper together, Bart decides to splice himself with a fly so that he can become a half-man, half-fly superhero.

Favorite quote/moment: 

The opening at the yard sale is all gold. 


6. The Devil and Homer Simpson (Tree House of Horror IV, seaason 5)

Homer strikes a Faustian deal for doughnut. However, a trial must take place to decide whether Homer's soul rightfully belongs to the devil...or someone else.

Favorite quote/moment:

Lenny: Sorry, Homer. While you were daydreaming we ate all the donuts.
Carl: Well, there were a few left, but we chucked them at an old man for kicks.
[shot of Abe running with a donut stuck to his head; multiple birds are swarming on him]
Abe: Damn buzzards! I ain't dead yet.

5. The Homega Man (Tree House of Horror VIII, season 9)

Mayor Quimby won't apologize for offending the French. In retaliation, Springfield is hit with a nuclear missile at the exact moment that Homer is testing out a bomb shelter. Eventually, he realizes he is the only survivor in town...or is he?

Favorite quote/moment:

Yeah, I've got to go with when Homer finds the Gary Larson calendar in the bomb shelter, saying, "I don't get it" each time he turns the page. I also love the moment when the Freaks get into their racer to chase after Homer driving a hearse.

4. Dial 'Z' For Zombies Tree House of Horror III, season 4)

Bart finds a book of spells in the Occult section of the school library. He and Lisa then attempt to bring the The Simpson family's dead cat, Snowball I, back to life. But the spell Bart reads ends up unleashing a zombie attack on Springfield instead.

Favorite quote/moment:

(Homer shoots Flanders)
Bart: Dad, you killed the Zombie Flanders!
Homer: He was a zombie?

I also love the moment when Homer and the family are walking through the halls of Springfield Elementary - killing George Washington, Albert Einstein, and William Shakespeare. "Take that Washington! Eat lead, Einstein! Show's over, Shakespeare!"

3. The Shinning (Tree House of Horror V, season 6)

The Simpsons take on Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, which is referred to here as the "shinning" so as to avoid a lawsuit.

Favorite quote/moment:

There are too many to list; the entire episode is brilliant. But one of my favorite jokes of the entire series is:

Lisa: Mom, is Dad going to try and kill us?
Marge: I guess we're just gonna have to wait and see.

2. Bart Simpson's Dracula (Tree House of Horror IV, season 5)

Another brilliant spoof - this time it's Francis Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula.

Favorite quote/moment:

Abe: (running into Bart's room with a stake) We must kill the boy!
Marge: Grampa, how'd you know he was a vampire?
Abe: He's a vampire?! (runs out of the room in fear)

I also love the scenes when The Simpsons go over to Mr. Burn's (who is playing the part of Dracula) castle for dinner.

Lisa: (smelling her drink) Dad, this is blood!
Homer: Correction...free blood! (quaffing)

1. Clown Without Pity (Tree House of Horror III, season 4)

Homer forgets to buy a present for Bart's birthday. At the House of Evil shop, Homer buys a Krusty doll that carries a terrible curse.

Favorite quote/moment:

The Frogurt routine is brilliant and is one my favorite moments in the entire series. But this segment does get my number 1 spot because I love every single scene. Every joke is hilarious and I often quote them. I also love the moments at the Halloween party before and after Lisa tells this story.

Almost made it: Nightmare Cafeteria, Citizen Kang, Hell Toupee, Lisa's Dream: The Monkey's Paw

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Dark Shadows/NBC/Tree House of Horror

I haven't seen Dark Shadows yet, Brandon, but I hope to check it out at some point. I couldn't agree more with your first paragraph. It's important to avoid the bullying crowd. John Carter definitely had redeemable qualities, and was much better than a handful of movies that were praised by critics and did well at the box office this year.

At the same time, I also want to say that it's important to try and be consistent with our convictions (not that I'm accusing you of this at all - I'm definitely not) and if a film is truly awful, we should acknowledge that...no matter how many critics and fanboys are shitting on it. Alice In Wonderland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory were terrible. Sweeney Todd and the Corpse Bride were all right, but I haven't seen either since they opened in the theater, I don't know that I'll ever watch them again.

I'm always rooting for Burton, though;  I'm a fan and I'll keep going to his movies hoping to love what I see.

Jeff and I did see Frankweenie last weekend (has anyone else been to this yet?) I liked it, and was particularly drawn to the message of the film (pro-science/academia). I should probably do a longer post on it, but I almost want to wait for someone else to see it first. It's fun, albeit, a little disorganized...but it's entertaining enough and has a lot of heart.

John, I liked your NBC round-up and I'm really glad you finally caught an episode of Parks and Recreation. (Again, you remind me a bit of Ron Swanson.) I think Lisa's a fan as well, and then obviously Jeff. I would hope there are other fans in CR5FC because it's the best comedy on network television right now. It's a show with a great cast and great characters, and you (John) should definitely start watching from the beginning. I will say that it gets off to a bit of a slow start, though. But stick with it; as you've seen (from the Halloween episode?) it's quite hilarious and enjoyable.

I've never seen Up All Night, but I'm a big fan of Will Arnett. When I saw the first few promos that aired it looked gimmicky - "Hey, we're 30 somethings with a kid...the kid cries at night...it blows...but hey, it's all part of being a family." I don't know, whatever, I'm sure there's plenty to enjoy about it.

I can't believe you're still watching The Office - you deserve a medal for sticking with it. I think I stopped watching after the sixth season. It's started to reach Family Guy territory for me. Okay...maybe not that bad. But I haven't truly enjoyed The Office since Michael Schur, one of the head writers, left to create his own show.....Parks and Recreation - the spin-off that wasn't. Also, they ruined Andy Bernard (Ed Helms' character). He was such a great character during season 3 and makes me sad to see that the 'Nard Dawg was neutered by the writing staff a season or two ago.

Haha, I haven't seen last week's episode of 30 Rock yet. I was going to watch it today, but apparently I can't stream it through Hulu plus on my Xbox. Now I'm dying to see what was so liberal about it. I mean, I know Tina Fey is a liberal and I'm sure all/most of her writers are as well. The show has taken many shots at conservatives over the years...but deservedly so. (It's always deserved, in my opinion; modern conservatives are ass-clowns...but that's another post for another day.)

My problem with 30 Rock is that it isn't as funny as it used to be. I still enjoy it, but seasons 1-5 are the golden years. The jokes were brilliant and made me laugh as much as some of my favorite Simpsons episodes.

I got Bernie texts from Brandon as well, and I do want to check it out at some point.

Shame on you for those Return of the Jedi thoughts, haha. Did you watch the theatrical version or the one with Hayden Christensen spliced in? Good lord that was an awful decision. Anyway, I should re-watch the trilogy soon. And speaking of things you're grumpy about, I'm kinda feeling Lord of the Rings right now; maybe a marathon is in my future. Is anyone dying to see The Hobbit? I have a feeling I might be slightly disappointed...hope I'm wrong. I've never read the book, though, so I should probably shut up altogether.

Goood write-up on your top ten Tree House of Horror segments, Jeff. I started working on one the other day, and obviously it's going to be very similar to yours.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Halloween Traditions

Here's a list of the movies and television episodes I'll be watching this October in preparation for Halloween, some of which I watch every year. Obviously my schedule is built more on nostalgia than trying to scare myself shitless...


The Wolfman (1941)

Cat People (1942)

I Walked With a Zombie (1943)

The Leopard Man (1943)

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1949)

Halloween (1978)

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Hocus Pocus (1993)

Frankenweenie (2012)

I was obsessed with The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and The Nightmare Before Christmas when I was a kid. Unfortunately I haven't watched them enough in my later years. Disney's TLoSH is beautifully animated and perfectly told. Of course the ending frightened me when I was younger. Still loved it though. And with Bing Crosby narrating/singing...what's not to like?

And when I was younger I knew all the words to the songs from TNBC. Jack Skeleton was something of a hero of mine growing up; he was cool as hell.

The Lewton/RKO pictures are a must. Give me the classics, baby! I haven't seen I Walked With a Zombie or The Leopard Man yet. Looking forward to them.

And even though I detest slasher films, I am curious to see John Carpenter's Halloween. Why not watch THE slasher film? Oh, and maybe I should re-watch Club Dread too...speaking of slashers.

I'm really looking forward to seeing Frankenweenie in the theater. It was time for Tim Burton to get back to what he's good at, so here's hoping it doesn't disappoint.

Hocus Pocus and Ernest Scared Stupid were the two live-action Halloween movies that I watched a lot as a kid. Obviously Ernest is too ridiculous (and terrifying) to re-watch every single year. Maybe though. Hocus Pocus is actually a decent movie, and a little bit fun to pick on.

In past years I've watched The Exorcist, The Omen, The Shining, and Peeping Tom. Those are all obvious classics and probably should be watched every year, so maybe there's a chance for them in 2012. I also watched Trick 'r' Treat (2007) last year and I'd recommend it, as it's a fun Halloween flick.

Of course, I'll look to add to more movies to this list. There's always room from some unexpected frights....MUHAHAHA!

Television shows

The Simpsons - Treehouse of Horror episodes I-VIII

Boy Meets World - And Then There Was Shawn (season 5), The Witches of Pennbrook (season 5)

The Twilight Zone - The Hitchhiker (season 1), The Eye of the Beholder (season 2), Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up? (season 2), The Dummy (season 3), Nightmare at 20,000 Feet (season 5), Living Doll (season 5), An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge (season 5),

Doug - Doug On His Own (season 2), Doug's Nightmare on Jumbo Street (season 3), Doug's Halloween Adventure (season 4)

Hey Arnold! -  Haunted Train (season 1), Arnold's Halloween (season 2), Four-Eyed Jack (season 2), Headless Cabbie (season 4), Ghost Bride (season 5)

Every year for the past few years Jeff and I have watched all of the Treehouse of Horror episodes. Of course, being the Simpsons snobs that we are, we only watch episodes I-VIII. I think episode IX has Jerry Springer in it...so there's a reason to stop watching right there.

But if my memory serves me well, Treehouse of Horrors X-XII are decent enough. Again, I could talk Simpsons all day, so I'll try and keep this short. My favorite Treehouse of Horror segments are: Clown Without Pity, Dial 'Z' For Zombies, The Devil and Homer Simpson, Terror at 51/2 Feet, Bart Simpson's Dracula, The Shinning, Time and Punishment, Homega Man, and Fly vs. Fly. Brilliant and hilarious. Highly recommended viewing.

ABC's TGIF line-up ruled, and Boy Meets World was one of my favorite shows back in the day. Two of the best episodes in the entire series happen to be ones associated with horror and Halloween. I watch the two episodes listed above every year and will continue to do so. More hilarity, not necessarily scares...though "And Then There Was Shawn" is slighty creepy, I've gotta admit. Disclaimer: I am a coward.

When I think of this time of year, The Twilight Zone instantly comes to mind. Essential stuff and I look forward to re-watching a lot of those episodes listed above. If you haven't seen them, check them out through NWI and youtube. And I think Sy-fy (or however the hell they're spelling it these days) does a marathon every October.

There's something about animated kid's shows that really capture the spirit of Halloween so well. Love Doug and Hey Arnold! and all of those episodes are great to watch this time of year.

Anyway, this is just to get the ball rolling. What are some of your Halloween movie and TV traditions? I imagine mine are the least terrifying. Also figured I'd consider any suggestions from the CR5FC gang, but I can't guarantee that I will garner enough courage to watch any of them, haha.

Thursday, October 4, 2012


Features (12)

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) *****
The Night of the Hunter (1955)  *****
V/H/S (2012) **1/2
Shadows (1959) ****1/2
Amarcord (1973) ***1/2
La Bete Humaine (1938) ****
Pat and Mike (1952) ****
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) ****
The Master (2012) ***** 
Adam's Rib (1949) ****1/2
The Curse of the Cat People (1944) ****
The Wild Bunch (1969) ****


Breaking Bad, season 5
Boardwalk Empire, re-watching season 1
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
The Colbert Report
Dexter, season 7
Doug season 4
Parks and Recreation, season 5
Real Time with Bill Maher
Seinfeld seasons 4 and 5
The Simpsons (various seasons)
Weeds, season 8

Notes: I started the month out with two films from the Brandon Musa Essentials list - The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and The Night of the Hunter. Both have quickly become essentials of my own.

Brilliant stuff from John Ford, as expected, with Liberty Valance. The story and the cast were perfect (shout out to Edmond O'Brien for kicking ass). Because the characters are so loveable, it's easy to feel involved in the film. I love the shot of Valance being gunned down (the reveal at the end). This is everything a film should be; I think I felt every emotion while watching it.

Robert Mitchum gives one hell of a performance in The Night of the Hunter. He's dangerous, terrifying, with charm. Also, I can't believe we got that shot of Shelley Winters underwater - haunting and cool. A shame that this all we have from Charles Laughton, director.

Shadows was my first Cassavetes film...maybe I'll watch them all in order if I can. I really dug this picture. Very impressive and fascinating. There's so much going on in the film that it only deserves an in-depth analysis. Hopefully I can get to that at some point here.

I'm still not in love with Fellini, but Amarcord was never going to be the film to change that. It's beautifully shot, though, and I'll never be one to write Fellini off as being too pretentious or boring. It's a fun film, but it didn't do enough for me.

I really enjoyed La Bete Humaine, but I'm afraid I don't have a lot to say about it. Jean Gabin is awesome, as always, and I love the story. Here's a bit of train movie for you, John. And as far as train movies are concerned, this might be one of the best.

Jeff told me to get Pat and Mike on Netflix, claiming that he liked it better than Adam's Rib. Sorry, J-dawg, but give me Adam's Rib over Pat and Mike anyday. Both are enjoyable, though. I love the Tracey/Hepburn team; they play off of each other so well. It's a case where, each time they play a married couple or two people who've fallen for each other, you immediately buy into it.

Gentlemen Prefer Jane Russell...I mean, Blondes was grand, but it started off a bit slow for me. But once it got going, it didn't disappointed. Jane Russell is great and definitely more a catch than Marilyn Monroe. Because I'm of a younger generation, I admit that I don't really give a crap about Monroe. I don't find her very attractive (I mean, clearly she is, she's just not my cup of tea) and she obviously isn't the most talented actress. Anyone else agree with me here?

The Curse of the Cat People is the strangest sequel of all-time, which Jeff had previously warned me about. I watched Cat People a year ago, and probably should've watched it again before CotCP as a refresher. I did really enjoy it though. The little girl is great and it's got some nice, creepy moments. It's nice to see that Simone Simon's character gets a chance to redeem herself.

I like Sam Peckinpah's style, but I admit, there were a few moments when I was bored watching The Wild Bunch. The gunfight in the beginning, the train robbery, the gunfight at the end - all great, but there were some dull moments as well. I think the problem was that I found it a little difficult to connect with the characters. I'm going to see Ride the High Country soon.

September saw the final episode of Weeds. I'm considering doing a big write-up on it. I liked the final season, though, and the series finale. It felt satisfying, which is what you always want from a final episode.

Dexter is back. After having seen the first episode, I've gotta say, it's got my interest back quite a bit. I wasn't sure how to feel about the season finale last year, but now that I know where the staff is going with this new development, I am pleased. We'll see how it all plays out.